(Note: I recently updated my video card to solve the graphical issues I was having previously. As a result of this, all the members of the Charm family look how they should now, except that some of them look very different now due to that. I tried to write it into the story as best I could, but I’m afraid it’s still a bit of a shock. The good news is, I’ll have no more graphical problems in my game which means better screenshots).

Week 10: Monday

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Josiah woke up and got out of bed. He winced when he saw his reflection in the window. Sheesh, I’ve put on a lot of weight over the years, he thought, grabbing his belly fat. I’m not even thirty yet and I look like I’m going to have a heart attack. He looked over at his muscled, bulky wife and sighed. She’s so fit. How can she stand to touch a bowl of jello like me? he wondered. He resolved to start working out more and lose weight.

At the breakfast table, the mood was subdued. Everyone ate in silence, still grieving over the loss of Marylee. It wasn’t until everyone was almost finished eating that Mandy cleared her throat and spoke in a thread of a voice. “I think we should have the funeral tonight after Josiah gets home from work. That way, everyone will be home to pay their last respects…” Her voice trailed off and she grabbed a napkin from the table to wipe her eyes. Everyone else nodded, but didn’t say anything.

“I’m going to go fishing. I need to get out of here for a while,” Christopher mumbled, cleaning up his dishes and walking out the door.

Just then, Mandy’s carpool honked from the road, along with the school bus for Christopher. The two of them got up without a word and headed out to go through the motions without really caring.

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Josiah was left alone in the house and decided to work out like he had told himself he would that morning. He was a little intimidated, but quickly reassured himself. Come on, Marcie does it all the time. It looks easy, he told himself, but quickly found that his wife made exercising look a lot easier than it actually was. Within minutes, Josiah was gasping for air and falling over, but he didn’t want to give up. The thought of his toned, fit wife coming home and seeing her husband passed out on the couch after only three minutes of exercise was humiliating.

“Uh, Hun? What are you doing?” Marcie asked with raised eyebrows when she walked in the door after work. Josiah wheezed and spluttered in response.

“W-working… out… too… fat… need… lose weight…” he panted before losing his balance and stumbling. Marcie sighed and rolled her eyes, grabbing her husband before he hit the floor.

“Honey, you can’t push yourself like that. Not only will you not lose any weight, but you’ll hurt yourself, too,” she warned. “It’s great that you want to get healthy and in shape, but take it easy. You can’t expect to train like I do on your first day.” She sat Josiah down on the couch and put her arms around him. “So take a breather, okay?”

“Okay,” Josiah mumbled. He looked out the window to see his carpool pull into the driveway. He got up and kissed his wife goodbye. “I’ll be back in time for the funeral tonight. I laid my suit on the bed this morning,” he told her.

“Okay… I love you…” she told him hesitantly. It was a sentence that the two of them hadn’t uttered to each other in over ten years. Josiah stroked her cheek and smiled.

“I love you, too.”

Soon after Josiah left for work, Christopher came home from school. He didn’t say a word to his mother and just glumly sat down at the breakfast nook to do his homework. Marcie sighed and sat down beside him. Her son had taken his grandmother’s death so hard; the fact that he never showed it made it worse because most of the family forgot about him in their own grief.

“How was school?” Marcie asked him quietly. Christopher shrugged without looking up from his English homework.

“Okay…” he mumbled.

“What’s your average?” she asked.

“An A,” he said. Marcie smiled.

“That’s great. You stay here and finish your homework. I’m going out for a bit.” Christopher just shrugged and didn’t say anything.

When she returned home, she was carrying a brand new video gaming system in her arms. She set it up in the living room and placed the sports game she had bought for it in the console, then found her son putting away his books in the kitchen. “I have a surprise for you. I think you’ll like it,” she told him. Christopher just shrugged and followed his mom into the living room. When he saw the gaming system on the floor, he cracked a very small smile.

“A gaming system? Seriously?” he asked. Marcie nodded.

“That was the deal, wasn’t it? You get an A, your father and I get you a game system. Just be sure to keep that A or it gets taken away,” she warned. “Want to play?” she asked. Christopher grinned and nodded.

“Yeah!” he smiled.

The two of them bonded over the new gaming system; though mother and son battled fiercely, getting competitive, they both turned off the game in good spirits, laughing together.

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A little later, Christopher Senior came home with a perfect Black Goldfish he named Moses. Rather than bounding into the house with glee and announcing his newest catch, he quietly walked into the house and placed his new fish in a fish bowl and fed him without a word. Mandy, who had just come home, walked up behind her father and put her arms around him.

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“That’s a beautiful fish, Dad,” she whispered. Christopher smiled weakly and patted his daughter’s hair.

“Thanks, Pumpkin. I just wish your mother would have been waiting at home to congratulate me like she always was. I miss her so much…” he choked. Mandy bit back her own tears and hugged her father tightly.

“I know, Dad. I miss her, too. We all do, but we’ll get to say goodbye to her properly tonight and have some closure,” she whispered.

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“You’re right Maddie…” he agreed. Mandy knit her brows together in confusion.

“Uh… my name’s Mandy, Dad,” she told him. He looked confused for a moment, then recognition dawned in his hazy eyes and he nodded.

“Right, Mandy. I’m sorry. I’m getting so forgetful these days,” he chuckled, walking upstairs to put on his suit, but Mandy stared after her father with concern. He had never so much as mixed up her and her sister’s names before, even though they sounded so similar, let alone forget his daughter’s name altogether.

Mandy quickly finished up her self-portrait and hung it on the wall to make room for Josiah’s portrait to be painted before heading outside in her funeral attire to set up the proceedings for that night.

As the heiress, it was Mandy’s job to set up the funeral. She cried as she arranged flowers and sorted through possible epitaphs, goodbye speeches and songs. Soon, her family came out to join her, all dressed in black, except Christopher, who had insisted he wear the blue suit he had worn on his wedding day so many years ago. No one argued with him. If it made him happy and brought him some comfort, then so be it.

Mandy cleared her throat and began with tears in her eyes. “We’re here today to honour and celebrate the life of a woman we all loved very much; Marylee Magnolia Charm. She was an incredible woman who built an entire legacy from nothing except the clothes on her back, a bed in the middle of an empty lot and a dream. She was a faithful and loving wife, mother and grandmother, and a talented star who’s name is known all over the world and will never be forgotten.” She then turned to the grave to speak directly to her mother. “Mom, you sacrificed so much to raise your family and provide for us. You were always there for us when we needed you and I never imagined that I would be standing here saying goodbye to you someday, because to me, you were always invincible. It’s so hard knowing I’m never going to see you again…” she wept. Mandy couldn’t speak anymore, so Josiah gently led her back to her chair and hugged her while Marcie stood up to say her last few words.

“Mom, you were there for me when I needed you as a kid. When I scraped my knee, you’d put a bandaid on it and kiss it better. When I got teased at school, you’d make me a snack and talk with me until I felt better. When I got pregnant too young, you took care of me and made sure I didn’t lose my baby, even though you were angry with me. I couldn’t have asked for a better mom than you,” she whispered. “Goodbye, Mom. I love you so much.”

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Josiah stood up as Marcie took his place to console her sister and cleared his throat. “Mrs. Charm, you gave me something I never dreamed I would have; a real family. When I got kicked out of my house by my abusive father, you took me in and gave me a home, treating me like I was your son. Thanks to you, I know what it’s like to raise a child in a loving family and be surrounded by people who care for you. I’ll never be able to express my gratitude for that, but I thank you every day of my life for what you did for me.”

Josiah sat back down and both he and Marcie held Mandy, who was still crying. Marcie forced her son to stand up and say something, though he hadn’t wanted to. He cleared his throat and touched his grandmother’s grave lightly, tracing his fingers over the epitaph that read ‘A beloved mother, wife, grandmother and star.’ “Goodbye, Grandma. I’ll miss you,” he muttered quickly, sitting back down and avoiding the disappointed frowns of his parents.

Christopher Senior was the last to stand and say his farewell to the wife he had loved so dearly for so many years. He knelt down in front of the grave and gazed longingly at her bed of pink flowers, as if wishing to be laid to rest underneath them with her. “Oh Marylee…” he sighed, touching her engraved name with a trembling hand. “I’m not a whole person anymore without you. I had always hoped to go before you, because I never wanted to feel this kind of pain… but I’ll be with you again, soon, Sweetheart. I’ll be right here beside you and we’ll be together again forever…” he wept. His speech was the most heartbreaking of all. Suddenly, he felt a tingling on his shoulder and he turned his head and gasped. “M-Marylee?” he whispered. His beloved wife was shimmering magnificently before him, smiling serenely. She gently grasped her husband’s hand and pulled him to his feet. “Oh Sweetheart… I miss you so much. Why did you go?” he wept. “I don’t want to live without you.”

“Dad…” Mandy choked weakly, her eyes wide at the sight of her mother in front of her.

Marylee closed her eyes and put her arms around Christopher, pulling him close. Her touch felt different to him now; lighter, but still just as beautiful. Christopher smiled a very serene, peaceful smile. He was aware of nothing except the embrace of the woman he lost and longed for. She pulled his chin down to her face and touched her pale, silvery lips to his. Christopher kissed her back so passionately, his family made awkward grunts and looked away with red faces.

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“I love you, Marylee… wait for me, okay?” Christopher whispered, stroking the side of her face lovingly with tears streaming down his face. Marylee smiled and nodded before vanishing into the dawn. Christopher’s shoulders shook with sobs and his two daughters walked over to him to console him.

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